Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Ray Garton
Published by Leisure Books
In the world of horror, werewolves have always been a mainstay. Changing into hairy, drooling beasts under the light of the full moon, lycanthropes are most often portrayed as remorseful, tortured, and cursed. Then along comes Ray Garton to turn the whole werewolf genre on its ear and create a more insidious, more engaging monster. In this follow-up to Ravenous, Garton revisits the small town of Big Rock for a bloody, sexy, and overall satisfyingly engaging story that is bound to become a favorite of any fan of the werewolf genre.
The story revolves around two investigators, Karen and Gavin, who are hired by an eccentric named Martin Burgess to go to Big Rock and investigate strange animal attacks and suspected werewolf activity. While one would think such an investigation would be a wild goose chase, past experiences of the investigators let them know that there is real danger afoot, mainly from the town's sheriff, who, incidentally, is also the werewolves' alpha. Throw in small-town politics, some gossip, and a hefty dose of Seventh Day Adventist doctrine, and all hell breaks loose.
Garton's werewolves are different than Lon Chaney, Jr.'s, or even David Kessler's (look it up if you don't recognize the reference). For starters, being bitten by a werewolf doesn't transmit the "curse." It's a virus. In fact, it's a sexually transmitted disease that gives the victims an insane blood-lust and makes them uncontrollably horny. The werewolves, with few exceptions, are not regretful or tortured, but revel in their new-found power and enjoy raping and rutting with everything they can get their paws on. There's a whole lot of sex to be had in this book, and it's hot and hairy.
One of the things that Garton does so well in Bestial is build believable and sympathetic characters. His Karen and Gavin are likable and full of life, even when they're running for theirs. His character the "first-born," which is the first werewolf born that way instead of made that way, is strangely seductive and effective, even though she has few lines throughout the whole book. But none of his characters are so well conceived as Bob, a thirty-eight-year-old man victimized by his strict SDA upbringing, and his best friend Royce, a recovering SDA. Through one, readers see the other's pain and frustration, and it works to create a wonderful dynamic.
People who read, and were fans of, Ravenous will love Bestial, and those that didn't care so much for it will still love Garton's latest novel. Disturbing on all the right levels, hard-hitting in all the right places, and full of surprises, this book is one of Garton's best.
4 1/2 out of 5
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